Europe's Culture of Euthanasia

Modern technology has created the possibility of dramatically extending human life, but also a host of new practical and moral problems in the process. Extending life is costly both because the technology itself can be expensive, but also because it often is extremely labor intensive in countries where labor is not cheap.

In capitalist societies, the high price tag associated with these new ways to extend life means that the poor and even the middle class can be excluded from important new benefits. Humanitarian and moral concerns demand that this problem be addressed adequately. Free market critics, sensitive to the problem of excluding people from living a longer life simply because of their income, look to the welfare states of Northern Europe for guidance, because they do not use the price system to allocate healthcare.

But the welfare states' experience with extending life creates its own ethical problems that may be even more serious than those in more market-oriented societies. Faced with bloated fiscal deficits, today's newly cost-conscious welfare states are economizing in the use of expensive life-extending technologies. Moreover, as a result of policies allowing medically-assisted termination of human life, a “culture of euthanasia” has been gaining ground in some Northern European countries. Life-extending technologies are increasingly out of fashion, and terminating ill old people's lives is often extolled as caring, even “humanitarian.”

To continue reading, please log in or enter your email address.

Registration is quick and easy and requires only your email address. If you already have an account with us, please log in. Or subscribe now for unlimited access.


Log in;
  1. An employee works at a chemical fiber weaving company VCG/Getty Images

    China in the Lead?

    For four decades, China has achieved unprecedented economic growth under a centralized, authoritarian political system, far outpacing growth in the Western liberal democracies. So, is Chinese President Xi Jinping right to double down on authoritarianism, and is the “China model” truly a viable rival to Western-style democratic capitalism?

  2. The assembly line at Ford Bill Pugliano/Getty Images

    Whither the Multilateral Trading System?

    The global economy today is dominated by three major players – China, the EU, and the US – with roughly equal trading volumes and limited incentive to fight for the rules-based global trading system. With cooperation unlikely, the world should prepare itself for the erosion of the World Trade Organization.

  3. Donald Trump Saul Loeb/Getty Images

    The Globalization of Our Discontent

    Globalization, which was supposed to benefit developed and developing countries alike, is now reviled almost everywhere, as the political backlash in Europe and the US has shown. The challenge is to minimize the risk that the backlash will intensify, and that starts by understanding – and avoiding – past mistakes.

  4. A general view of the Corn Market in the City of Manchester Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

    A Better British Story

    Despite all of the doom and gloom over the United Kingdom's impending withdrawal from the European Union, key manufacturing indicators are at their highest levels in four years, and the mood for investment may be improving. While parts of the UK are certainly weakening economically, others may finally be overcoming longstanding challenges.

  5. UK supermarket Waring Abbott/Getty Images

    The UK’s Multilateral Trade Future

    With Brexit looming, the UK has no choice but to redesign its future trading relationships. As a major producer of sophisticated components, its long-term trade strategy should focus on gaining deep and unfettered access to integrated cross-border supply chains – and that means adopting a multilateral approach.

  6. The Year Ahead 2018

    The world’s leading thinkers and policymakers examine what’s come apart in the past year, and anticipate what will define the year ahead.

    Order now